Underrail Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2015-12-18
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
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Combat Proper

I've already talked about some of the ancillary aspects of combat, but haven't dived into the system proper save for saying that it's turn-based, so allow me to get you up to speed. Underrail doesn't use an initiative or sequence system, and the party that starts the battle always gets the first move, granting it a tremendous advantage. Most of the enemies pack a serious punch, so, unless you can afford an armor with good damage resistance and threshold (and the best armors have fairly steep strength requirements too) there's a chance you might even die at the first turn. Simply put, even basic encounters are fairly hard and require a measure of strategy to be won.

While that sounds scary, you're given more than enough options to get through even the hardest encounter (assuming, of course, you have the right build in the first place). At every turn you're granted a number of movement points and action points, depending on your base abilities, talents, whether you're in or out of stealth, and a few other conditions. Movement points do what you expect them to and determine how far you can move during the turn, while action points are used for important actions like shooting, using items, equipping something, and using psi abilities. Should you want to move further than you'd be able to with your movement points, you can also consume some extra action points to do so. Weaker weapons and abilities tend to use less AP and use cheaper, more common resources, and on top of that tend to not have cooldowns but, given fights are generally short in length, the ratio between them and stronger, more expensive actions is not as skewed as you might be initially led to believe.

The game allows you to equip two weapons you might switch between at will and up to two utility items, which can be expanded to five depending on your equipment and talents. Utility items range from extremely powerful grenades to useful but highly situational throwing nets, and also encompass a series of traps. Meanwhile, consumables can easily be used without needing to be equipped anywhere, though the average player will likely want to keep them on the action bar to keep an eye on them. Using your consumable and utility items well in combat is essential: spraying and praying is a strategy that only really works with the basic critters you meet at the beginning, and even the relatively common bandits aren't easily dispatched that way.

Speaking of enemies, while there are talks of introducing even more devious ones and refining the AI on the forums, the current ensemble is already pretty varied, if not visually, then at least in terms of abilities. From bugs with psychic abilities, to stationary turrets, to spooky doppelgangers, to ye olde giant rats, Stygian Software has put together everything that was even vaguely appropriate for the setting to offer an interesting challenge. While the encounter design might not be as refined as in a purely combat-focused title, the simple fact that every monster has different resistances, abilities and immunities forces you to continually change your tactics and utilize your resources in creative ways.

Speaking of immunities and damage resistances, there are 7 damage types with their own specific resistance: mechanical is the most commonly used as it governs melee and ranged weapons, but there are also heat, cold, electricity, acid, energy and even bio damage types and resistances. The game also has a variety of status effects that get applied via special abilities, like fear, entanglement, stunned, etc. which mostly amount to debuffs and different ways to block movement.

As a final note, I've mentioned earlier that psi abilities use "Psi" as an additional resource, but didn't mention what it is. In short, Psi is the post-apocalyptic sci-fi equivalent of mana. Its total amount is determined by your Will stat and it doesn't regenerate, but it generally depletes significantly only over the span of several battles, and Psi Boosts (consumable that regenerate Psi) aren't at all uncommon. It's perfectly possible to make a psi-focused build, though not necessarily recommended due to the cooldowns attached to most abilities and the existence of critters that are highly resistant to this kind of attacks.